A Guide to Choosing Swimwear for Competitive and Fitness Swimmers

High School swimmer
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Competitive or fitness swimmers often need advice on selecting, sizing, and fitting swimwear. While appearance may not be as compelling an issue in competitive swimwear as it is in fashion swimwear, it's fit and functionality are still just as important, if not more important. Odds are you have had some unanswered questions and concerns when choosing swimwear. Here are some tips on shopping for and fitting competitive or fitness style swimwear.

Competitive and Fitness-Style Swimwear

In the swimwear market, much of the advice and many of the consumer guides for swimsuits focus solely upon recreational swimwear. With a minimal amount of effort, women can quickly find hundreds of tips for selecting, sizing, and fitting fashion swimwear to their unique body figure; such information can easily be obtained by conducting an online search or picking up any fashion magazine in early spring.

Competitive, fitness, or serious swimmers often need similar advice on selecting, sizing, and fitting competitive swimwear, but have a considerable amount of trouble locating it. The world of swimwear fashion advice and swimwear tips has largely left serious swimmers to their own devices when choosing a swimsuit. While the appearance of a swimsuit may not be as compelling an issue in competitive swimwear as it is in fashion swimwear, its fit and functionality are still just as important, if not more important.

Whether you have been swimming competitively for years or have just taken up lap swimming as a means of acquiring greater overall fitness, odds are you have had some unanswered questions and concerns when choosing a competitive swimsuit for your serious swimming pursuits. Below is a guide to shopping for and fitting a swimsuit designed for serious competitive swimming.

What to Look for When Shopping for Competitive Swimwear

Competitive swimsuits can run upwards of several hundred dollars, based upon the brand name and model of the swimwear. While this figure may be out of the price range of some swimmers, it is still important for every serious swimmer to purchase a quality piece of swimwear. Competitive swimwear is designed for different reasons and purposes than fashion swimwear, and these differences should be evident in the design and fabric of the swimsuit. Here are some general tips for selecting the best quality swimsuit product for your money.

  • Swimwear Brand Names
    Swimwear brand names may be more important than you think. The fact that brands such as Speedo and Jantzen have stayed on the market for several decades testifies to the quality of the swimwear they produce. However, newer brands like Tyr Swimwear have made a serious entry into the market. Before purchasing a swimsuit, be sure to do a little research on the brand you are leaning toward. Read some information about the company and see what past customers have had to say about the swimwear. A little consumer research can go a long way toward ensuring a quality, long-lasting swimsuit.
  • Swimwear Function
    Keep in mind the reason you are buying the swimsuit when browsing through stores. If you are selecting swimwear for casual lap swimming, speed facilitation may be less of a factor for you than swimsuit longevity. You may be able to cut some costs by looking at brand-name swimwear designed without the latest innovations. If speed facilitation is your major requirement, be sure to compare brands and research product claims before purchasing. The advertising claims of the swimwear manufacturer may be more fancy words and big names than actual swimwear innovations.
  • Swimwear Sources
    Do not assume that you need to buy brand-name swimsuits from a high-end sports store or directly from the manufacturer. Many second-run fashion stores carry brand-name swimwear that did not sell initially due to unpopular cut or color. If swimwear functionality and longevity are more important to you than appearance, these stores may provide better, more cost-effective swimsuit options for you.
  • Swimwear Materials
    Pay attention to swimwear fabric. Purchasing an expensive, brand-name swimsuit and quickly losing it to chlorine degradation and fraying would be very unfortunate. Well-made competitive swimwear should contain high-quality materials and competitive workout swimwear should be treated for chlorine resistance. While no treatment can result in complete chlorine resistance, some sort of chlorine treatment can greatly lengthen the swimwear's life. If you are unsure of the chlorine resistance of a particular swimsuit, feel free to ask the salesperson or call the manufacturer regarding this important concern.

With all of these thoughts in mind, you should now be ready to shop for and buy competitive swimwear. Once you acquire that swimsuit, feel free to dive in and swim to your heart's content, knowing that you purchased competitive swimwear at the best value and with the best fit.

Now that you have some ideas on how to buy a swimsuit, how do you make sure the swimsuit you buy fits?

How to Make Sure Your Swimsuit Fits Right 

In opposition to fashion swimwear, in which appearance and style take a higher priority, fit and comfort level should be two of the most important factors when choosing competitive or "serious" swimwear. You will likely be spending a great amount of time in your swimsuit, as well as requiring strenuous motions of your body when wearing the swimsuit. Because of these facts, it is essential that you acquire a good, comfortable fit.

  • Torso
    The torso portion of your swimwear should lie perfectly flat on your body without gathering at the seams or pulling from any of the straps or openings. The higher spandex content of competitive swimsuits generally allows for a flat fit, but it is important to make sure the swimsuit is not too tight. Be sure that you can move comfortably in your swimsuit without any stretching from the leg openings or neck.
  • Legs
    To correctly size the leg openings of a competitive swimsuit, be sure that the elastic straps are not puckering or digging into your legs. If the elastic is digging into your legs, you may want to try a larger size. Also, remember to check the back of the suit to ensure it is offering adequate coverage. If you require more coverage than is offered in a swimsuit, try a different style rather than a different size.
  • Shoulder Straps
    The straps of the swimsuit should lie comfortably on your shoulders, without digging in or falling down. Most competitive swimsuits will not use tie straps; however, if you are interested in a suit with tie straps, be sure to move around a bit in the dressing room to check that the straps remain tied. Also, rotate your shoulders a couple of times to determine if the straps will remain comfortable and in place in all arm positions. Lap swimming requires a great deal of movement in the arms, and you do not want uncomfortable or insecure straps slowing you down.
  • Chest/Bust
    The bust of the swimsuit should provide an adequate amount of coverage and support without flattening the breasts entirely. Look for a swimsuit with adjustable straps so that you will feel contained and secure in the bust portion. Also, be sure to lift your arms in the dressing room to determine if the swimsuit provides adequate coverage in the bust. An accidental flashing at a public swimming pool would be a very unfortunate occurrence.
  • Full Body Swimsuits
    A final note about bodysuits: Many swimmers have chosen to wear the ever more popular, full body swimsuits in order to enhance and facilitate their speed in the water. These swimsuits are designed to create the most aerodynamic texture possible in the water and have become an athlete favorite at the Olympic games. Due to the increased amount of fabric and the innovations employed in this fabric, these swimsuits are often quite expensive. If you are investigating a bodysuit, do not be taken in by flashy phrases and idle promises.
    While fractions of a second may impact the outcome of a highly competitive race, they will likely not affect your time or conditioning at the local gym or pool. If you do decide to purchase a bodysuit, keep the above fitting factors in mind. Be sure that the fit of the suit is not so tight that it cuts off circulation or causes you any pain. You definitely will want any pain you feel after a swimming workout to come from tired muscles, not from a too tight swimsuit.

With all of these thoughts in mind, you should now be ready to shop for and buy a competitive swimsuit. Once you acquire that swimsuit, feel free to dive in and swim to your heart’s content, knowing that you purchased a competitive swimsuit at the best value and with the best fit.